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Trump Acquitted In Impeachment Trial — NC Senators Split On Vote

The U.S. Senate acquitted former President Donald J. Trump on Saturday of inciting a riot at the U.S. Capitol, ending his impeachment trial. The final vote was 57-43, well short of the two-thirds majority – or 67 votes – needed for a conviction.

Seven Republicans voted to convict Trump, including North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who is not seeking re-election in 2022. It was the most defections ever from a president’s party in an impeachment. North Carolina’s other senator, fellow Republican Thom Tillis, voted not guilty. Recently re-elected in 2020, Tillis isn’t up for re-election again until 2026.

Burr and Tillis both voted against having witnesses in the trial Saturday. Earlier in the week, Burr had voted that the trial was unconstitutional and said in a statement Saturday that he still believed that “to be the case.”

“As an impartial juror, my role is now to determine whether House managers have sufficiently made the case for the article of impeachment against President Trump. I have listened to the arguments presented by both sides and considered the facts. The facts are clear,” Burr said in a statement.

“The President promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results. As Congress met to certify the election results, the President directed his supporters to go to the Capitol to disrupt the lawful proceedings required by the Constitution. When the crowd became violent, the President used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault.”

Burr added: “As I said on Jan. 6, the President bears responsibility for these tragic events. The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government… I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary. By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

While Tillis voted against convicting Trump, he did say in a statement that the former president’s actions were “reckless” and that Trump “failed” to provide leadership.

“The most serious aspect of President Trump’s conduct was not necessarily what he said in the lead-up to the attack of the Capitol, but the leadership he failed to provide to put an end to it, and yet the House curiously chose not to file a charge or build their case around this point,” Tillis said. “It is important to note that a not guilty verdict is not the same as being declared innocent. President Trump is most certainly not the victim here; his words and actions were reckless and he shares responsibility for the disgrace that occurred on Jan. 6.”

Joining Burr in breaking from the majority of Republicans and voting to convict Trump were Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The acquittal comes more than a month after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as lawmakers were certifying the 2020 presidential election win for Joe Biden. Five people died in the chaos at the Capitol, including a police officer. Trump welcomed the acquittal, saying in a statement that his movement “has only just begun.”

Trump is the first president to be impeached by the House twice and the first to tried for impeachment after leaving office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. He was born in Iceland, but grew up eating blue crabs and scrapple on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In addition to working at the Delmarva Daily Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, his work has also been featured at SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel, NCAA.com, Sports Illustrated and SLAM Magazine. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and has won awards from the MD-DC Press Association and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.